Sultanate of Ifat
The Ifat Sultanate in the 14th century.
|Capital||Zeila present day Somalia|
|Common languages||Somali, Harari, Arabic, Afar |
|Today part of|| Djibouti|
The Sultanate of Ifat was a medieval Muslim state in the eastern regions of the Horn of Africa between the late 13th century and early 15th century. Led by the Walashma dynasty, it was centered in the ancient city of Zeila. The kingdom ruled over parts of what are now eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and northern Somalia.
According to Al-Omari, Ifat was a state close to the Red Sea coast, 15 days by 20 days "normal traveling time". The state had a river (Awash River), was well peopled and had an army of 20,000 soldiers and 15,000 horsemen. Al-Omari mentioned seven cities in Ifat: Belqulzar, Kuljura, Shimi, Shewa, Adal, Jamme and Laboo. While reporting that its center was "a place called Walalah, probably the modern Wäläle south of Šäno in the Ěnkwoy valley, about 50 miles ENE of Addis Ababa", G.W.B. Huntingford "provisionally" estimated its southern and eastern boundaries were along the Awash River, the western frontier a line drawn between Medra Kabd towards the Jamma river east of Debre Libanos (which it shared with Damot), and the northern boundary along the Adabay and Mofar rivers. The Al-Omari territorial account of Ifat Sultanate implies a size of 300 kilometers by 400 kilometers, which may be an exaggeration, according to Richard Pankhurst.
According to Taddesse Tamrat, Ifat's borders included Fatagar, Dawaro and Bale. The port of Zeila provided an entry point for trade and served as the most important entry point for Islam into Ethiopian lands. Ifat rulers controlled Zeila, and it was an important commercial and religious base for them.
It was the northernmost of several Muslim states in the Horn of Africa, acting as a buffer between Christian kingdom and the Muslim states along the coastal regions.
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Islam was introduced to the Horn region early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the hijra. Zeila's two-mihrab Masjid al-Qiblatayn dates to about the 7th century, and is the oldest mosque in Africa. In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali seaboard.
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Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn was born in Zeila during the Adal Kingdom period. Al-Kawneyn is a Somali Muslim saint. He is believed to be the founder and ancestor of the royal family known as the Walashma Dynasty, which later governed both the Ifat Sultanate and the Adal Sultanate during the Middle Ages.
Ifat first emerged when Umar ibn Dunya-huz, later to be known as Sultan Umar Walashma, carved out his own kingdom and conquered the Sultanate of Showa (located in the highlands of Eastern Shewa province in Tegulat). Taddesse Tamrat explains Sultan Walashma's military acts as an effort to consolidate the Muslim territories in the Horn of Africa in much the same way as Emperor Yekuno Amlak was attempting to consolidate the Christian territories in the highlands during the same period.
According to the Arab historian Maqrizi, known for his pro-Islamic version of history written around 1435 that Sultan Umar ibn Dunya-huz was the first ruler of Ifat and founded Ifat at Zeila in 1185. He was also the grandson of the famous Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn Umar died around 1275, stated Maqrizi, and was succeeded by "four or five sons" with each ruling a short period. Finally, Sabr ad-Din I came to power and he ruled Ifat till the turn of the century. He was succeeded by Sultan Ali, according to Maqrizi, who was the first ruler to engage with a warfare against the Abyssinia.
In 1320 a conflict between the Christian monarch and Muslim Ifat leaders began. The conflict was precipitated by Al-Nasir Muhammad of Egypt. The Mamluk ruler Al-Nasir Muhammad was persecuting Christian Copts and destroying Coptic churches. The Ethiopian Emperor Amda Seyon I sent an envoy with a warning to the Mamluk ruler that if he did not stop the persecution of Christians in Egypt, he would retaliate against Muslims under his rule and would starve the peoples of Egypt by diverting the course of the Nile. According to Pankhurst, of the two threats, the diversion of Nile was an idle threat and the Egyptian sultan dismissed it because he likely realized this to be so. The fear that the Ethiopians might tamper with the Nile, states Pankhurst, was nevertheless to remain with Egyptians for many centuries.
As a result of the threats and the dispute between Amda Seyon and Al Nasr, the Sultan of Ifat, Haqq ad-Din I responded, initiating a definite war of aggression. He invaded the Christian Abyssinian territory in the Amhara kingdom, burnt churches and forced apostasy among Christians. He also seized and imprisoned the envoy sent by the Emperor on his way back from Cairo. Haqq ad-Din tried to convert the envoy, killing him when this failed. In response, the irate Emperor raided the inhabitants of all the land of Shewa, much of it inhabited by Muslims at that time, and other districts of Ifat Sultanate. The historical records of that time, depending on which side wrote the history, indicate a series of defeat, destruction and burning of towns of the opposite side.
According to the Christian chronicles, the son of the Sultan Haqq ad-Din Dadader Haqq ad-Din who was the leader of the Midra Zega and Menz people who were then Muslims, fought the emperor in the battle of Marra Biete in an area somewhere south Marra Biete in modern North Shewa. Dadader forces were able to surround the emperor Amda Seyon I , who nevertheless succeeded in defeating them and killed the commander Dadader in the battle .
Sabr ad-Din's rebellion was not an attempt to achieve independence, but to become emperor of a Muslim Ethiopia. Amda Seyon's royal chronicle states that Sabr ad-Din proclaimed:
In fact, after his first incursion, Sabr ad-Din appointed governors for nearby and neighboring provinces such as Fetegar and Alamalé (i.e. Aymellel, part of the "Guragé country"), as well as far-off provinces in the north like Damot, Amhara, Angot, Inderta, Begemder, and Gojjam. He also threatened to plant khat at the capital, a stimulant used by Muslims but forbidden to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
Sabr ad-Din's rebellion in early 1332 , with its religious support and ambitious goals, was therefore seen as a jihad rather than an attempt at independence, and it was consequently immediately joined by the nearby Muslim province of Dewaro (the first known mention of the province), under the governor Haydera, and the western province of Hadiya under the vassal local ruler Ameno. Sabr ad-Din divided his troops into three parts, sending a division north-westwards to attack Amhara, one northwards to attack Angot, and another, under his personal command, westward to take Shewa.
Amda Seyon subsequently mobilized his soldiers to meet the threat, endowing them with gifts of gold, silver, and lavish clothing – so much so that the chronicler explains that "in his reign gold and silver abounded like stones and fine clothes were as common as the leaves of the trees or the grass in the fields." Despite the extravagance he bestowed on his men, many chose not to fight due to the inhospitability of Ifat's mountainous and arid terrain and the complete absence of roads. Nevertheless, they advanced on 24 Yakatit, and an attachment was able to find the rebellious governor and put him to flight. Once the remainder of Amda Seyon's army arrived, they destroyed the capital of Ifat zeila and killed many soldiers at the battle of Zeila. But Sabr ad-Din once again escaped. Amda Seyon's forces then grouped together for a final attack, destroying one of his camps, killing many men, women, and children, taking the rest prisoner, as well as looting it of its gold, silver, and its "fine clothes and jewels without number."
Sabr ad-Din subsequently sued for peace, appealing to Queen Jan Mengesha, who refused his peace offer and expressed Amda Seyon's determination not to return to his capital until he had searched Sabr ad-Din out. Upon hearing this, Sabr ad-Din realized that his rebellion futile and surrendered himself to Amda Seyon's camp. Amda Seyon's courtiers demanded that Sabr ad-Din be executed, but he instead granted him relative clemency and had the rebellious governor imprisoned. Amda Seyon then appointed the governor's brother, Jamal ad-Din I, as his successor in Ifat. Just as the Ifat rebellion had been quelled, however, the neighboring provinces of Adal and Mora just north of Ifat rose against the Emperor. Amda Seyon soon also put down this rebellion.
the Muslim rulers of Ifat continued their campaign against the Christian Emperor. His son, Emperor Sayfa Arad appointed Ahmad, also known as Harb Arad ibn Ali as the sultan of Ifat, and put Ali's father and relatives in prison. Sayfa Arad was close to Ahmad and supported his rule, however Ahmad was killed in an Ifat uprising. Ahmad's son Haqq ad-Din II then came to power in Ifat. Internal ruling family struggle in Ifat expelled grandfather Ali's son named Mola Asfah who gathered forces and attacked Ahmad's son. A series of battles affirmed Sultan Haqq ad-Din II position of power. The new Sultan moved away from previous capital of Ifat, to a new town of Wahal. From there, he ceaselessly fought with the Emperor, in over twenty battles through 1370, according to Maqrizi's chronicle written in 1435. The Ifat Sultan Haqq ad-Din II died in a battle in 1376.
According to historian Mordechai Abir, the continued warfare between Ifat Sultanate and the Ethiopian Emperor was a part of the larger geopolitical conflict, where Egypt had arrested Coptic Church's Patriarch Marcos in 1352. This arrest led to retaliatory arrest and imprisonment of all Egyptian merchants in Ethiopia. In 1361, the Egyptian Sultan al-Malik al-Salih released the Patriarch and then sought amicable relations with Ethiopian Emperor. The actions of the Ifat Sultanate and Muslim kingdoms in the Horn of Africa, states Abir, were linked to the Muslim-Christian conflicts between Egypt and Ethiopia.
In 1376, Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din Abdul Muhammad, also called Sa'ad ad-Din II, succeeded his brother and came to power, who continued to attack the Abyssinian Christian army. He attacked regional chiefs such as at Zalan and Hadeya, who supported the Emperor. According to Mordechai Abir, Sa'ad ad-Din II raids against the Ethiopian empire were largely hit-and-run type, which hardened the resolve of the Christian ruler to end the Muslim rule in their east. In the early 15th century, the Ethiopian Emperor who was likely Dawit collected a large army to respond. He branded the Muslims of the surrounding area "enemies of the Lord", and invaded Ifat. After much war, Ifat's troops were defeated. Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din subsequently fled to Zeila. The Ethiopian Emperor's soldiers pursued him there, where they slayed him at the battle of Zeila. The sources disagree on which Emperor conducted this campaign. According to the medieval historian al-Makrizi, Emperor Dawit I in 1403 pursued the Sultan of Adal, Sa'ad ad-Din II, to Zeila, where he killed the Sultan and sacked the city of Zeila. However, another contemporary source dates the death of Sa'ad ad-Din II to 1415, and credits Emperor Yeshaq with the slaying.
The Sultanate of Ifat eventually disappeared as the Christian kingdom expanded. Adal Sultanate with its capital of Harar emerged in the southeastern areas as the leading Muslim principality in latter part of the 14th century. Several small territories continued to be ruled by different Walasma groups up to the eighteenth century. By eighteenth century several Christian dynasties named Yifat and Menz, which were the province names of Ifat sultanate, were established. Presently, its name is preserved in the modern-day Ethiopian district of Yifat, situated in Shewa.
|1||Sulṭān ʿUmar DunyaHuz||1185 - 1228||Founder of the Walashma dynasty, his nickname was ʿAdūnyo or Wilinwīli|
|2||Sulṭān ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar||1228 - 12??||Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz|
|3||Sulṭān ḤaqqudDīn ʿUmar||12?? - 12??||Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz|
|4||Sulṭān Ḥusein ʿUmar||12?? - 12??||Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz|
|5||Sulṭān NasradDīn ʿUmar||12?? - 12??||Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz|
|6||Sulṭān Mansur ʿAli||12?? - 12??||Son of ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar|
|7||Sulṭān JamaladDīn ʿAli||12?? - 12??||Son of ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar|
|8||Sulṭān Abūd JamaladDīn||12?? - 12??||Son of JamaladDīn ʿAli|
|9||Sulṭān Zubēr Abūd||12?? - 13??||Son of Abūd JamaladDīn|
|10||Māti Layla Abūd||13?? - 13??||Daughter of Abūd JamaladDīn|
|11||Sulṭān ḤaqqudDīn Naḥwi||13?? - 1328||Son of Naḥwi Mansur, grandson of Mansur ʿUmar|
|12||Sulṭān SabiradDīn Maḥamed "Waqōyi" Naḥwi||1328 - 1332||Son of Naḥwi Mansur, defeated by Emperor Amde Seyon of Abyssinia, who replaced him with his brother JamaladDīn as a vassal.|
|13||Sulṭān JamaladDīn Naḥwi||1332 - 13??||Son of Naḥwi Mansur, vassal king under Amde Seyon|
|14||Sulṭān NasradDīn Naḥwi||13?? - 13??||Son of Naḥwi Mansur, vassal king under Amde Seyon|
|15||Sulṭān "Qāt" ʿAli SabiradDīn Maḥamed||13?? - 13??||Son of SabiradDīn Maḥamed Naḥwi, rebelled against Emperor Newaya Krestos after the death of Amde Seyon, but the rebellion failed and he was replaced with his brother Aḥmed|
|16||Sulṭān Aḥmed "Harbi Arʿēd" ʿAli||13?? - 13??||Son of ʿAli SabiradDīn Maḥamed, accepted the role of vassal and did not continue to rebel against Newaya Krestos, and is subsequently regarded very poorly by Muslim historians|
|17||Sulṭān Ḥaqquddīn Aḥmed||13?? - 1374||Son of Aḥmed ʿAli|
|18||Sulṭān SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed||1374 - 1403||Son of Aḥmed ʿAli, killed in the Abyssinian invasion of Ifat under Yeshaq I|
Ifat's inhabitants, according to Nehemia Levtzion and Randall Pouwels, include nomadic groups such as Somalis, Afars and Werjih people whom were already Muslims by the thirteenth century, Including the Hararis, Argobbas and the no-longer-extant Harla. Scholars proposed, based on Al Umari's account stating that the inhabitants of Ifat mainly spoke Somali.
The whole lowland of Shewa and Hararghe, in general, was ruled by the Shewa Sultanate and it consisted of Ethiosemitic and Cushitic Muslims but the predominant and rulers were the Argobba people. That kingdom was eventually disposed and conquered by the Ifat Sultanate and became a vessel state under the Ifat. At their height, Ifat Sultanate became a multi-ethnic state that first emerged in northern Somalia but eventually expanded and consolidated it's ruled deep into the Ethiopian provinces like Shewa but the Walashma Dynasty centred in Zeila still maintained their dominance within the kingdom. The majority of scholars agree the population of the leading principality of Ifat Sultanate were no doubt the Somalis who were headquartered in Zeila.
Ifat or Yifat, once the easternmost district of Shewa Sultanate, is located in a strategic position between the central highlands and the sea, and includes diverse population. Its predecessor state Shewa Sultanate is believed to be the first inland Muslim state and by the time it was incorporated into Ifat much of the inhabitants of Shewa land were Muslims. According to the chronicle of Shewa Sultanate converting the inhabitants in the area begun in 1108, and the first to convert were the Gurage people whom Trimingham suggested them being the ancestors of Argobbas. A few years later after the conversion of the Gurage people, the chronicle of Shewa sultanate mentions that in 1128 the Amhara fled from the land of Werjih people. The Werjih were a pastoral people, and in the fourteenth century they occupied the Awash Valley east of Shewan Plateau.
By mid-fourteenth century, Islam expanded in the region and the inhabitants north of Awash river were the Muslim people of Zaber and Midra Zega (located south of modern Merhabete); the Gabal (or Warjeh people today called Tigri Worji); and much of the inhabitants of Ankober, were under the Sultanate of Ifat. Tegulat, previously the capital of Shewa Sultanate, is situated on a mountain 24 km north of Debre Berhan and was known by Muslims as Mar'ade. The chronicle of Amda Tsion even mentions Khat being widely consumed by Muslims in the city of Marade. Tegulat, later became the seat of Emperor Amde Tsion, thereby, making it the capital of the empire. The emperor then appointed the descendants of Walasmas as the king of all the Muslim lands.
However, the 19th-century Ethiopian historian Asma Giyorgis suggests that the Walashma themselves spoke Arabic.
We can attribute its success (The Walashma dynasty), longevity and influence, to the fact that the founders of the dynasty of Walasma were native of the area.